Secret Teacher: I’m faced with the realities of child poverty every day

Feb 17, 2018 by

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My pupils are resilient, loving and appreciative of what little support I can give them. But they deserve more

I’ve spent more than a decade working in primary schools in a deprived area of the UK. Some of the children we teach come from families living on the breadline, and they often miss out on things that some of us might take for granted. I’ve seen a pupil eat five packed lunches provided for free by the school because he was so hungry, and families scrape together handfuls of coppers and loose change to pay for school trips. In winter, I’ve taken a child to the supermarket to buy them a coat and shoes.

This week, a Scottish council announced plans to tackle “holiday hunger”, following reports from teachers of children coming into school on Mondays without having had a substantial meal over the weekend. A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimates that by 2022, 37% of children will live in relative poverty in the UK, with the greatest rise expected in Wales, the north-east, the east Midlands and Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, the government has announced plans to lower the threshold for free school meals – from April, children in families with net earnings of more than £7,400 per year will not be entitled to the benefit. For some of the students I teach, it’s their only decent meal of the day.

My students are resilient, loving, appreciative, funny and streetwise. But there are very few smart, washed and pressed uniforms in class. They arrive in the morning, and are expected to concentrate without having had breakfast, or after only grabbing a packet of crisps and a can of pop on the way to school.

Friends in nearby schools report that they’ve joined the Brushing Buddies initiative, teaching children to brush their teeth, as their parents see toothbrushes and toothpaste as an expense they don’t need. Others tell of pupils who have to take school stationery home to do their homework, where they share beds with siblings or sleep on mattresses on the floor. A school in Lancashire recently made the news because it’s washing clothes for parents almost every day, and giving many of them breakfast, as well as their children.

Source: Secret Teacher: I’m faced with the realities of child poverty every day | Teacher Network | The Guardian

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.